HOW I FOUND MY VOICE - AND WHAT I GOT WRONG
I have spent most of my life trying to find my voice - indeed, that search became even more important to me when I entered the world of entrepreneurship.
When I first became a coach 20 years ago, I got a lot of advice about how important and strategic it is to find your voice. Necessary because it would allow me to stand out, build an audience, and attract followers who will hopefully, go on to buy my services. It made sense.
As I look back, the mistake I made - the big misunderstanding - was that I didn’t really understand what finding your voice truly meant.
I would look at other successful coaches and how they were speaking, writing, and putting themselves out there, and I’d want to be like them. If how they were showing up and expressing themselves was working for them, then maybe it would work for me.
What I got wrong was thinking that finding your voice was a stylistic thing. Do I show up with a deep, serious, and introspective persona or someone who is lighthearted, jovial, positive, or even funny? Do I come across as introverted, extroverted, or even glamorous? I believe that style is important and plays a role, but it doesn’t speak to the fullness of who we are - it’s only the icing on the cake of your real voice.
So what exactly does it mean to find your voice?
Your unique voice is the thing that sets you apart from other people. I may be one of thousands of other writers and coaches writing and speaking in the same genre, but how I express myself on the subject of relationships, confidence, or insecurity is unique to me. Your voice is the thing that makes you who you are.
Your voice is your point of view, your values, your collective experiences, your journey - it’s where you’ve come from - it’s your version of the truth.
Your voice is your story. No one else has your story, and your story is everything about you.
It’s taken me decades to find my voice (and that journey is ongoing) - to find the courage to sit down and ask myself: What is it that I really want to talk and write about? What do I want to say? What’s my version of the story? What’s really below the icing (style) of the cake?
Writer, Terry Tempest Williams sums up how it was for me:
"For many years, I wandered through the desert in search of a narrative that was not mine. I did not feel I belonged here. I was borrowing a landscape until I found my own.”
I would spend years searching for a narrative I could borrow from someone else - one that didn’t belong to me out of fear and shame that my narrative wasn’t good or significant enough.
My voice began to get uncovered (because it’s always been there!) when I finally owned my story. I had to let go of the shame I felt about my family and the events of my life.
There were so many years of never feeling good enough, never feeling qualified or special enough, feeling insignificant, and always believing that I had to be someone else if I wanted to be seen and heard. Who I believed I was just wouldn’t cut it when it came to success.
The big shift came when I began to own and honor my story - when I realized that there is nothing in my life experience to be ashamed of, and I’ve come to see that this is the essence of what truly makes someone feel confident.
A confident person is someone who can own their voice. The question for me became: can I own my experience and let it take up some space in the world? Can I be comfortable knowing that my voice can be radically different from other voices? This is what it truly means to be comfortable in your own skin.
I recently reconnected with an old boyfriend - we hadn’t seen each other in fifty years. My husband asked him what he remembered about me all those years ago when I was seventeen. He replied: "Linda was very quiet and shy. "
His description of me made me reflect on how I got from this place of being a quiet and shy girl to the woman I am today who knows who she is, and who has a strong and distinct voice - definitely not quiet or shy. That quiet and shy persona was not a personality trait I was born with but was symptomatic of a girl who was closed down due to shame.
Take the time to get to know your voice - sit with your story - honor it without judgment. Own it. Give yourself permission to express your unique self. Write and speak about things that scare you, and worry you. Be raw. Be real. Rewrite your narrative.